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FIL's cancer - wish I knew what to expect

(5 Posts)
juneau Tue 15-Nov-16 16:36:15

I don't know if anyone can shed any light on this, but anyway, this is the story:

FIL was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer last May. It was quite a big tumour, but he had aggressive chemo- and radiotherapy and around Christmas scans revealed that the tumour had completely disappeared. However, during his treatment small spots were seen on his lungs and in April his doctor decided to start a different kind of chemo to target them. They began to shrink, but then FIL had a bad fall (caused by anaemia due to the chemo), and broke his hip. So he had to take a break from the chemo, have a hip replacement and then rehab. All this took several months.

A new scan has shown that the 'spots' have grown again, so now he's back on chemo. He's very thin and quite frail and has struggled to regain any of the weight he lost last year during the first course of chemo. He's 74, a life-long pipe smoker, and has always had a poor diet (weekly trips to McDonalds, lots of red meat, hardly any veg and no fruit).

DH is in denial and thinks the lung tumours are unrelated to the oesophageal one. I suspect they are secondaries and the cancer is on the march, but I have no medical background and I only ever hear news second or third hand, so any insight would be great.

mumonashoestring Tue 15-Nov-16 16:44:28

First off, sorry to hear about your FIL flowers

Has there been any mention of what type of cancer it is, or what stage it's at? Stage 2 for example, or 3? This information would allow you to work out quite a bit without actually having to prod for more information. There is some amazing information on the Cancer Research UK website and it can help you find your way through some of the jargon and start working out what to expect in terms of treatments, symptoms, outlook etc.
www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/oesophageal-cancer

juneau Tue 15-Nov-16 17:11:14

Thank you. FIL's doctor was reluctant to 'grade' his oesophageal tumour (which is apparently common with that type of cancer). However, if it has metastasised then I think it's stage 4 (could be wrong on that - like I said I'm not expert).

Stopyourhavering Thu 17-Nov-16 20:06:31

It is possible to have synchronous tumours( ie both lung and oesophageal occurring at same time) however given your dads previous diagnosis , I would think the most likely scenario is that these lung deposits are secondaries.....I'm afraid for this type of tumour , second line chemotherapy can be quite unhelpful as it quite often can worsen quality of life...for little gain in quantity of life
I think supportive care needs to discussed, eg if your fil has problems with swallowing , he may be offered a stent to keep open the gullet and allow him to eat
He will be offered blood transfusions if anaemic and analgesia to keep any pain under control. I'm afraid all this is merely symptom management but can be available as an out patient so that he can stay at home for as long as he wishes. You may find he will be referred to a palliative care team at some point
He should have a Clinical Nurse specialist (CNS)overseeing his care, they can discuss his care ( but only with your dads consent)
Sorry about all this, it is a terrible disease and in my line of work I see it all too often I'm afraid
Hope you get some answers and support

juneau Fri 25-Nov-16 13:21:26

Thanks stopyourhavering. He's in the US, so the support system is slightly different and while he's had very aggressive treatment, which knocked out the primary tumour last year, he's not had any home support that I can see. If he has a crisis (a fall, extreme nausea, etc), he has to go into hospital. I haven't heard that anyone has visited him at home or is providing any nursing, etc, in the home.

It was Thanksgiving yesterday so we Skyped with him. He looks terrible. He's lost so much weight that his cheekbones are sticking out. He looks like he's starving to death. He's been suffering with a lot of nausea from the treatment and can't keep anything down, but I'm seriously worried about him and whether he'll make it through the winter. My DH seems strangely detached and unworried. I feel like I'm really seeing his dad as he is (very ill, underweight, undergoing punishing chemo when he's not got any energy or body-weight reserves), while my DH was just lecturing his dad about eating properly. Poor man can't eat when he's suffering with debilitating nausea.

I'm really unsure what to say or do. I feel FIL could die at any time - if not from the cancer then from the treatment or pneumonia. I feel really that DH (at the very least - but probably all of us), should visit so he can see his grand kids. I fear he may not have much time left. Yet DH isn't pushing for us to go there and visit. WWYD?

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